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Common Wild: Sometimes the best course of action is just to listen

Why are mums so compelled to try and solve each other’s problems? You only need to mumble that you’ve had a tough day and someone will thrust a tube of pawpaw ointment or a phial of essential oils into your hand.

This may be because our role as mothers, from the moment our children are born, is primarily to decipher the complicated little riddle of the baby’s existence. Why are they crying? What is this rash? Why won’t they sleep?

The vast wealth of experience and opinions that exists online has turned them into problems with neat and often commodifiable solutions.

Maybe it’s also because, in moments of stress and chaos, we look to reclaim control by focusing on a single problem and find peace and comfort in overcoming a simple hurdle.

The world in which we now parent is different to the world of previous generations. We generally don’t benefit from multi-generational and extended families living together. Our choices are constantly called into question by contradictory and polarising opinions. It’s no longer good enough to do things because “that is just how we have always done things.”

Most of us are doing the heavy lifting on our own, managing pretty well and fiercely protective of our decisions. Advice can feel like criticism. In a vulnerable state it seems to highlight our shortcomings and when we are feeling like we aren’t enough, the avalanche of advice seems to concur.

The vast wealth of experience and opinions that exists online has turned them into problems with neat and often commodifiable solutions.

But maybe your newborn wants to be held and rocked all day because since our ancestors were hanging in trees newborn babies have been safely nestled, gently rocking in their mother’s chest.

Your baby wakes up at night because frequent night wakings are biologically normal and helpful, they have tiny stomachs and their only goal at this point is to gain weight and grow.

Your toddler is a fussy eater because it puts them at an evolutionary advantage. Their suspicion of food means they are less likely to wander into the forest and eat poisonous berries.

Most likely, we offer practical advice because it’s less confronting than comforting someone in a moment of vulnerability. And that’s exactly why we need to hold the unsolicited advice, allow them to let off some steam and offer only our support.

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